Boosting transparency of forest data

FAO promotes transparent and reliable forest data for climate action


Forests have significant climate change mitigation potential. Improving the transparency of forest-related data and information is needed now more than ever, particularly with respect to the enhanced transparency framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement. But what steps are being taken at the community, country and global levels 

The CBIT-Forest global project, implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), is supporting developing countries to collect, analyze and disseminate forest-related data to improve data transparency and accessibility in line with the ETF. The CBIT-Forest activities aim to boost institutional capacity and increase technical capacity in partner countries, as well as encourage global knowledge sharing.  

A closer look at NFMS assessments 

Under this project, FAO has developed the National Forest Monitoring System (NFMS) assessment tool for identifying needs and gaps to help establish or strengthen a country’s forest monitoring system (information note EnglishFrench and Spanish). The tool presents good practice guidance and examples for three complementary themes - institutional arrangements, measurement and estimation, and reporting and verification. The Excel-based tool is free, available in multiple languages and accessible through the e-learning course on “Forests and transparency under the Paris Agreement” (EnglishSpanishFrenchChinese, Russian and Arabic).  

The new tool was designed according to FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on National Forest Monitoring (VGNFM) and reinforced with the REDDcompass resources of the Global Forest Observations Initiative (GFOI). It also incorporates 50 years of FAO´s experience working with member countries. The tool enables governments and other stakeholders to perform capacity assessment of their NFMS systems, facilitate dialogue with key national stakeholders and identify possible solutions. It also functions to analyse institutional dynamics, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to improve an NFMS. 

In the last year, the NFMS assessment tool has been implemented in 6 pilot countries participating in the CBIT-Forest project (Cote d'lvoireGuatemalaHondurasLaosThailand and Uganda). In addition, this tool was shared with around 2000 individuals, from more than 140 countries worldwide, who participated in three multiple-language editions of in Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on forests and transparency. Each edition of the MOOC included a dedicated live webinar session, “Establishing and implementing a sustainable NFMS: effects on the forest sector of a county,” which allowed participants to engage with experts and stakeholders from different countries and learn from their experiences implementing NFMS. 

Learning to use the assessment tool  

There is certainly a growing global desire to monitor and share forest information. However, determining how or where to start can present quite a challenge. To guide individuals, organizations, communities and countries in using the NFMS assessment tool, the CBIT-Forest project also developed a Quick Guidance, now available in all six official UN languages: EnglishSpanishFrenchChineseArabic and Russian. The Quick Guidance pairs with the National Forest Monitoring assessment tool, providing an overview of the tool’s objectives, target users and overall structure. Additionally, it guides new users through the steps of the assessment process, including pictures of the tool at each step. This Quick Guidance simply makes the NFMS tool easier to use and more accessible to all.   

According to the guidance, NFMS assessment follows a five-step procedure:  

  1. Select language and the country for which an assessment will be carried out; 
  2. Identify gaps and needs in institutional arrangements; 
  3. Identify gaps and needs in measurement and estimation; 
  4. Identify gaps and needs in reporting and verification; and  
  5. View the results of the capacity assessment.  

Transparency for climate action 

Open and transparent data has enabled forest and climate action under REDD+ for the last 10 years, including through the development of NFMS. These NFMS provide transparent, reliable, relevant, accessible and sustainable forest data that allow countries to not only effectively report on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, but also respond to their own multi-purpose national data needs on trees and forests. This transparent country reporting of forest information has been promoted by the Enhanced Transparency Framework, a key pillar of the Paris Agreement.  

The NFMS tool and accompanying Quick Guidance were designed to empower countries to fight climate change and enable them to meet their climate and sustainable development goals. Also, by increasing transparency of forest information and encouraging countries to share lessons and experiences, these resources help the global community secure a more sustainable future.  

This article was authored by Rocío Cóndor-Golecand David Morales-Hidalgo, Forestry Officers from the Forestry Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The development of the NFMS assessment tool was made possible with funding from the “Building global capacity to increase transparency in the forest sector (CBIT-Forest)” project, funded by the Capacity-Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) trust fund of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).